Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Ted Youngkin

I'm sad to announce the passing last weekend of Ted Youngkin, the revered perspective teacher from Art Center College of Design whom Jeanette and I visited about a year ago (see previous post). His daughter informed me that he died peacefully at home with his family around him.

Born in Hawarden, Iowa, Mr. Youngkin served in the Marines, and then worked in industrial design. He patented several inventions before returning to Art Center to teach. He taught in a rigorous and demanding manner that brought out the best in all his students.

He was the best art teacher I ever had, and his class was the place where I met my wife Jeanette. One of his former students recently recalled to me that "he was scary! I loved the fact that he was so regimented and tough. I learned so much from that class. He was Yoda!"


Super Villain said...

sorry to hear this james, i know from your past posts how important Ted Youngkin was to you and the great work you produce.

you keep his spirit alive in what you teach in your blogs, and for that we are all greatful.

Erik Bongers said...

Like Yoda he does look indeed.
On must live his spirit forever.
Yes, via a blog of his student, a good idea would be that.

Victor said...
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Patrick Smith said...

I'm sorry.

From what I've read and heard, he was one of the best teachers we've been blessed to have.

I bet he's happy to know that one of his favorite students ever is continuing his work.

René PleinAir said...

Sorry to hear this James, a lovely memory you wrote of this man.

I wish you all the best to recover from this lost.

Take care.

David R. Darrow said...

When he retired it was the end of a Golden Era. Art Center lost one super instructor.

This sad news reminds me to make my life count for the benefit of others, as did Ted.

Rest in peace, my esteemed instructor. You were the Best!

James, I am sorry for the loss of your dear friend.

Please post news of any memorial plans.


Anonymous said...

This news makes me very, very sad. I had Ted as a teacher in 1976, I was young, and he was my Drawing Drill Sargent.I worked so hard in his class,not so much for myself, but mostly to try and please him. He gave us every once of himself, and we remain the better for it.

Michael Osborne

Unknown said...

I will miss him. I had Ted as a teacher and he gave me the tough love. I really pushed an assignment one day and he told the class that it looked like "I had dropped my assignment at the latrine and urinated all over it". It was one of the best , honest crits I have ever had. I still tell the story often. It was the truth. Sometimes , you need a Marine to set you straight! I am STILL crappy at perspective!

Just found your blog on Sunday James. I just started one in October. http://frankordaz.blogspot.com

I post my Star Wars stuff every Wednesday.

Blessings bro!

James Gurney said...

Thanks everybody. Mr. Youngkin influenced a lot of people. Check out Frank Ordaz's blog. Frank worked as a matte painter for Star Wars, and he's an old friend of mine.

Jason Peck said...


Im very sorry for your loss. I know its tuff loosing a dear friend. My thoughts and prayers go out to you and Mr.Youngkin's family.

Sincerely, Jason

janice skivington said...

Oh! I just now found this blog.(followed a link from Lines and Colors) I am so thrilled by your writing. I went to ART Center, graduated in 1977 and I also had Ted Youngkin. Oh, I loved that man, but I fear that I did poorly in his class. I know I learned a lot but I still have poor self-esteem about my perspective abilities.
He was definitely one of the greatest teachers that I had and I had quite a few of "greats" at Art Center.
Well, I am new to blogging and keep finding new blogs to follow-however I have collected and loved your dinotopia books for years now. Thanks for all.

James Gurney said...

Thank you, Janice. It's amazing how many people's life and work Mr. Youngkin touched. I only remember about 5% of what he taught me, but it's enough to get by. But all the rest of it is in the notebooks he made us keep. Thanks for visiting the blog.

Unknown said...

Thank you for your original blog about Ted and this unfortunate but inevitable notice about his passing.

As a industrial design student at Art Center during the time I was there 1988 to 1992, we had the honor of having Mr Youngkin as an instructor three or even four times. Few of us had him for perspective, our experience started with ID Drawing 1 in first term.

This class was primarily about drawing spheres, cubes and cones on a particularly unforgiving charcoal paper he specified. The class culminated in a trip to Newport Beach to draw elements of that environment. This class was probably one of the most important of any I took at ACCD because of the standards he instilled in this class for draughtsmanship, craftsmanship, cleanliness and pride in the work we did. Other classes were more design related (if you remember full scale children's riding toys or telescopes in the Gallery during that time they came from his classes) and the rendering of specific materials.

Later instructors like Andy Ogden, Richard Pietruska and Dave Solon all built upon the foundation Youngkin created in us. That foundation is still the basis of how I work today.

I can still hear him yelling at the group of us on the first day (and periodically thereafter when we failed to meet expectations): "I'll take you and your Goddamn portfolio down the bridge in front of David Brown's office and kick you and it into the arroyo below! Just see if I don't!" Of course later, after we had matured, we found just what a kind, caring and giving individual he was. His bluff and bluster put many off but was his way of driving people to reach their potential. As you became more professional, his relationship with you did as well.

Just as he showed volatility in responses to our failings, he also made clear his delight in our successes as designers and artists. He retired while I was there and the last day was a poignant one with past grads as well as current students streaming in and out of his classroom.

I never became a great artist but have always taken the many gifts Mr Youngkin gave me to complete all of the work I have done.

Thanks for your blog and heres to extending his legacy.

Karl Mead

James Gurney said...

Thank you, Karl. That's an eloquent tribute, and you reminded me how he would often assign very challenging drawing materials (like marker on blotter paper) to keep us from noodling too tentatively.

Stephen James. said...

Sorry to hear about this.

robh said...

i too had Ted as one of my main instructors at Art Center and was sad to read he had passed on. one of the "old guard" that made that school great.

rodolfo said...

Unfortunately I never had Mr. Ogden as an instructor while at Artcenter, I graduated in 2004.

I have heard so much about him from other Artcenter instructors and designers about how teachers like him would push their students to do their best.

His legacy lives on.

Unknown said...

I just wanted to thank everyone who has shared their rememberances and stories about my father. It has brought our family comfort to know that my father lives on in the work he loved and in the students to whom he was so dedicated.

Heidi Youngkin

Galen Ramos said...

Back in the Summer of '85 I went directly from ROTC Basic Training right into Art Center and the pace was the same... I went from Ft. Knox drill sargeants straight to Ted Younkin (a former marine drill sergeant). He was scary! I loved the fact that he was so regimented and tough. I learned so much from that class, He was Yoda!

A few illustration majors were very talented and they would do fantastic art, but surround edges in free form or floating space and pass it off as artistic expression...Younkin would nail these students who didn't follow the assignments. I think a lot of them complained to the faculty about him but he was right and they were first term.

He invented many things as well, I think he invented the electronic signage that moves letters across rows of light bulbs. I know he was the best instructor for Perspective because the other ones didn't teach about his legendary "Cone of Vision". This was a fail safe non-distortion formula he created to keep the artist from rendering out of the natural field of vision. Mr. Youngkin also taught me what a plumb bob was. No matter where you start your perspective you've gotta be standing firm and straight, a good metaphor for an old warrior. I imagine that if you go far enough to the vanishing point you will find Ted Younkin there with a ruler and chalk.

James Gurney said...

Thanks, Galen and everyone else for these recollections. You reminded me of two more. On the first day, he wrote "YOUNGKIN" on the chalkboard. Then he wrote "YOUNGKINGKONG" and told us not to even think of it, he'd heard of it before.

He also told us of a prank one class tried years ago where they pulled out the bolts holding the chalkboard to the wall so that when he touched the chalk to the board the whole thing fell. "Don't try it," he said with that tiger-like gaze. We were all terrified.

"Where are the vanishing points on this picture?" he once said. "You'd never find them, even if you went to Bakersfield."

iDcow said...

1988 was the year I had Mr. Youngkin as my first term ID class instructor. Being one of the youngest in the class (19 years old), it was quite a shocking second day at school. I only found out about Art Center at the end of my Junior year in high school. With no prior drawing experience, I had to achieve the criteria that Art Center demanded to become their student. What a joy it was when I was accepted, but had no idea a 35+ years of teaching veteran who talks about his pet turtle would be waiting for me on my second day at Art Center. I was in ROTC in early days of high school so I know what discipline is, and boy, he knew how to discipline us. Complete challenges and unworthiness swept over me as he spread out his best students work he collected over the years…. Remarkable charcoal drawings… with names like Syd Mead on the drawings… He taught Syd Mead!!! I have same instructor as Syd Mead! As Mr. Youngkin started to talk, horrific fear took over my honorable moment. He told us that he is there to kick us out of school. I almost peed that day. I was only 19 and only had less than 2 years of drawing experience in high school and city college. At the end of my first term, my finger prints were gone from smearing so much for charcoal. Final, critic day, Mr. Youngkin picks few drawings from our class for him to keep. He picked a charcoal drawing of a model airplane engine with my finger flesh still on it. I was so honored. I was so happy. He told me I did a good job. A compliment from Mr. Youngkin! I still remember that day and the training I received. It is worth every bit of astronomical tuition I paid. A solid foundation he planted in me has changed all aspects of being an Industrial Designer. He taught me how to speak, present, defend, and sell. Wandering in business world, my final place will be in Industrial Design, creating and solving, just sake of Industrial Design. I love you Mr. Youngkin. We will meet again in heaven, when that time comes, let’s build the Universe together. Thank you for your teaching.

Mark Lee.
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